Project Description


The Center for District Innovation And Leadership in Early Education (DIAL EE), a partner of the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, fosters collaboration, enhances the capacity of leaders, and informs policy for early childhood education.

District Innovation And Leadership for Early Education has three goals:

  1. Breakdown isolation to generate and share insight and innovation by creating a learning network among district early education leaders. As often the only early education expert within the system, early education leaders often operate without common content-specific peers within their districts. A network provides these leaders with a peer network that can help push their learning and help them problem solve within the context of operating within a school district. 
  2. Develop leaders to strengthen public education systems by coaching and supporting early education leaders to test and implement innovative solutions to improve the preschool teaching and learning and alignment of frameworks and practices across grade levels (PreK-3rd /5th grade).
  3. Inform local policies and practices through the development of early education leaders to participate, advocate, and lead internal policy discussion. Beyond the pilot year, the goal broadens to impact regional and state policies. In addition, there is also a desire to develop a related action research agenda that captures the lessons being learned among this set of leaders and helps inform the broader field.

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District Innovation And Leadership for Early Education (DIAL EE) was born out of three stark realities. First, students in the United States entered Kindergarten with varying levels of school readiness and even the best school systems were unable to accelerate learning for every student to bridge this early divide. Second, despite substantive disincentives for embracing early learning, 29 percent of California public school districts operate state-funded early education programs and these district programs account for nearly half of the state-funded Pre-Kindergarten (PreK) slots. Thus, for many low-income families, school districts are often the access point for their children to receive formal early learning opportunities. Yet, school district leaders’ voices are rarely present in state-level early learning policy discussions. Third, operating early learning programs within school districts requires operating within at least two complex sets of regulations: one that governs early childhood care and education and the other that oversees and sets standards for K-12, the state’s compulsory education system.  There are districts that succeed in identifying innovative ways to work within both governance frameworks and develop effective early education programs. But leaders in these districts primarily operate in relative isolation limiting the diffusion of innovation and lessons. 

The DIAL EE Initiative begins by asking the question: 

  1. How can we support school districts to improve their approach to early learning that helps ensure that children from communities with less social, political, and monetary capital build a strong educational foundation?
  2. And, if we are able to identify the conditions and structures that support effective early learning, can what is learned help drive broader change throughout the district?
  3. Unlike other “grade levels,” district early learning programs primarily serve low-income families and so there is the opportunity to design around a system focused on meeting the needs of those most vulnerable. 


When California gave its shelter in place order school districts across the state had to figure out how to support children with distance learning. Many school districts got creative and went into the classrooms to create packets of materials to go home with their students, and for their at risk children they added more materials. During this time District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education reached out to its district partners to see how it can be of help. Together we are responding to COVID-19 by ensuring that vulnerable families and children have what they need for distance learning. Here is how it happened:

  • District partners responded to a survey on what ten items children should have at home to continue their learning and how they identified the families who needed the extra support materials.
  • Research was conducted on a range of businesses and products to put together the Play-N-Learn Kits to maximize time, cost efficiency, and quantity.
  • District partners reviewed the final list of items for each kit and coordinated the delivery of the kits to their districts. Some districts went into the classrooms with their teams to create kits themselves.
  • District partners distributed the kits to families in compliance with COVID-19 public health requirements.

Additional supporting documents and files


System solutions generated by the districts. 

  • Create 5-20 minute videos for families on using household items as learning tools.
  • More resources coming soon!


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